The Daughters of Palatine Hill-Phyllis T. Smith

How does one blog about a book that wasn’t terrible but also wasn’t good?

I have read a lot of historical fiction over the years, some of it good, some not so good. This lands firmly in the ‘not so good’ category. That isn’t to say that it was bad though…

I was drawn to this novel because of the beautiful cover and the fact that the narrators are three women close to Caesar Augustus and I love to read about historical events/people from alternative points-of-view, even if those narratives are fictional. It brings to life an alternative history that never made the history books but is just as important as the ‘political histories of war’ that fill our history text books and form most people’s idea of what constitutes ‘history.’

Unfortunately, Smith’s versions of the narrators, Livia (her husband was Caesar Augustus), Julia (her father was Caesar Augustus), and Cleopatra Selene (her parents were Cleopatra VII and Marc Antony) were not fully realized characters and all of them were one dimensional, predictable, and could easily be placed into one of the standard female tropes. Livia is the ‘devoted and loving wife,’ Julia is the ‘rebellious sexually adventurous (read: promiscuous and immoral) daughter,’ and Selene is the ‘loyal servant.’ Additionally, because there were three different narratives, it felt that each individual’s story was shallow and never fully realized which was disappointing.

That being said, this wasn’t a horrible book and I can appreciate the author’s intent but as a person who has read a ridiculous amount of historical fiction written by especially talented authors I found this novel a bit prosaic. Thankfully, it was not a long book and I only devoted a few days of my life to reading it…although, now that I am thinking about it, this book could be a very nice ‘beach read’ if you’re looking for something this coming summer!

Read on my friends!

The Daughters of Palatine Hill by Phyllis T. Smith